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Tucson completes PCL Finals sweep

Sidewinders rally for 6-3 triumph in Round Rock
September 16, 2006
Brian Barden hit a two-run homer in a five-run seventh inning as the Tucson Sidewinders completed a three-game sweep of the PCL Championship Series on Friday with a 6-3 victory over the Round Rock Express.

The Sidewinders went 6-1 in the postseason to win their third PCL title and first since 1993, when the franchise was known as the Toros. Tucson got off to a 4-11 start but played .674 ball the rest of the season en route to a league-best 91-53 record.

"We played with so many different players this season," Sidewinders manager Chip Hale said. "I think we won 97 games while promoting guys like Chris Young, Carlos Quentin, Stephen Drew, Miguel Montero. When those guys go out there and help the big league team win, it feels great. For us, this is the culmination of a very, very long season."

"Besides having a lot of great players and top prospects, we had an awesome clubhouse," Barden added. "I've never had a team get along like this. We were able to go out there and keep that nucleus and keep that attitude that we were going to keep fighting, no matter what."

Tucson trailed, 3-1, before the first three batters reached in the seventh to knock out Express starter Philip Barzilla (0-2). Kenny Perez and Alberto Callaspo singled on ground balls to right field. After a wild pitch, Jon Weber delivered a two-run single up the middle to tie the score.

"Ever since Weber signed with us after the All-Star break, he's been clutch," Barden said. "He came in and pretty much saved our butts a lot of games."

Jailen Peguero came in and struck out Scott Hairston, but Barden, who batted .297 in the series, crushed a 1-0 pitch to left-center field to give Tucson the lead for good. Robby Hammock followed with a drive over the left-center field wall for his first playoff homer and team-leading sixth postseason RBI.

"We just battled," Hale said. "That's been our theme all season. I think we led the league in come-from-behind victories."

Barden also made the final play of the game, scooping Joe McEwing's slow roller at third base and firing it to Hammock to set off the celebration.

"I've had a tough time the last few games on defense, so to make the last out on defense was relieving," Barden said. "To hit the home run that put us up and make the final play, I can't describe it.

"As soon as I let go of the ball, I started running to Robby and gave him a big hug. We've been fighting so hard all season. I've never had an experience like this."

The Sidewinders mobbed each other near second base as the Dell Diamond crowd gave them a standing ovation.

"This is incredible," Weber said. "I've been a part of four championships in a row and by far this is the most special I've been a part of."

The Tucson bullpen tossed 3 1/3 scoreless frames to seal the victory. Casey Daigle (1-0) recorded the final out in the sixth to get the win. Evan MacLane pitched around a double in the seventh. Bill Murphy retired a batter and walked one in the eighth before Mike Koplove recorded the last five outs to secure his second playoff save.

Ross Ohlendorf started for the Sidewinders and was charged with three runs -- two earned -- on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Barzilla surrendered four runs -- three earned -- on nine hits and one walk with four strikeouts in six-plus innings.

Eric Munson hit an RBI double and scored on Hector Gimenez's single to give Round Rock a 2-0 lead in the first. McEwing came home on Barden's throwing error in the fifth to make it 3-0.

J.R. House went 3-for-4 and batted .424 in the Express' first-ever PCL playoff appearance.

Tucson will play the International League champion in the Bricktown Showdown on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET in Oklahoma City.

Eric Justic is a contributor to